Transforming barren old durian trees into fruit-bearing ones

This old durian tree used to have no more than seven fruits every year but now bears more than 100 fruits in a season! — Photos: HO TING SENG

For years, smallholder farmer Wong Pong Sing was dismayed by the meagre crop his durian trees yielded. The trees, which were planted more than 35 years ago, typically bore no more than seven fruits each durian season.

So Wong turned to sustainable agriculture expert Dr Ho Ting Seng for help. Ho is the chairman of the Sustainable Agrotech Association (Sata) Foundation and a natural farming advocate who established a pilot project in Kuala Pilah, Negri Sembilan last year.

To help resuscitate old durian trees, Ho applied a plant nutrient bio-formulation with organic compost, to the base of the old trees, and continued remediation treatment to revive the microbiome of soil and roots, to nourish the trees. Farmers were also told to completely stop putting pesticides on trees.

Ho says natural farming, which involves working with the many living things in the soil in order to maximise farming efforts without interfering with nature, is key to reviving languishing fruit trees.

Ho has found a natural method that helps revive old, fruitless durian trees into trees that produce healthy durians like this one. Ho has found a natural method that helps revive old, fruitless durian trees into trees that produce healthy durians like this one.

“We have to understand soil biodiversity and how to take care of it. Living things can respond and do their best if we know how to harness their power. So we work together with the farmer, who has to believe and follow the procedure.

“It is all about working on the soil and taking care of it and the plant will respond positively and production will increase,” says Ho.

In six months, Wong and Ho witnessed a miraculous turn of events. This durian season, Wong’s trees bore more than 100 fruits! The fruits averaged 2kg and had a rich, creamy texture.

“It was amazing to me. There are so many old durian trees not producing fruits and they are like non-performing assets. If you plant a new tree, it takes years to fruit, but if they are sick and old, we can now make them productive,” he says.

For the 2022 durian fruiting season, Ho will use his soil microbiome revival method to revive a Negri Sembilan farmer’s barren durian trees and says he is also open to working with smallholder durian farmers seeking to rejuvenate old durian trees.

“Durian is a fruit that has a lot of demand and farmers can make an income out of this, so what is there to lose? We can do good things for durian farmers in this country,” says Ho.

Interested farmers with barren old durian trees can contact Dr Ho at

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